Challace McMillin (copy)

Challace McMillin was the first head coach of the JMU football team.

JMU football lost one of its own this weekend. Challace McMillin, the first head coach for the Dukes, died at age 77, according to a press release from JMU Athletics. 

McMillin first led JMU onto the field in 1972 and coached the program for the next 13 years. By the time McMillin left the program in 1984, he’d helped the Dukes amass a winning record of 67-60-2. 

“JMU Athletics would not be what it is today without Challace McMillin,” JMU Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne said to JMU Athletics. “He started our football program from scratch, recruiting young men from the campus class registration lines. He built the program quickly, coaching young men to success on the field, leading them to various individual achievements and professional opportunities and caring for JMU student-athletes outside of competition with attention to their academic and mental health.” 

Even after his time as head coach, McMillin remained a fixture at JMU football practices. Staying in the Harrisonburg area, McMillin was a familiar face walking the sidelines throughout the week, even with new coaches coming to the program. 

McMillin is still the only coach in JMU football history to lead the Dukes to an unbeaten season, helping JMU go 9-0-1 in 1975. It was also during the 1975 schedule that the Dukes won their first conference title in program history. 

A decade after coaching his last game for JMU, McMillin was inducted into the JMU Athletics Hall of Fame for his accomplishments during his coaching career. It was also during his time at the university that McMillin coached the likes of Charles Haley, Gary Clark and Scott Norwood, all of which went on to NFL careers. 

“He always had a smile on his face and a positive attitude and made life better for everyone he came across,” Bourne said in the statement. “He will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family." 

Contact Catie Harper at For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

Pat Summitt, Erin Andrews and Lindsay Czarniak were three names that inspired me growing up. Here I am now at JMU, Czarniak’s alma mater, taking steps to live out my dream. As Pat would say, “I’m going to keep on keepin’ on, I promise you that.”